Online Nurse Education Degree & Certificate Programs

The nursing field is an ever-evolving landscape, consistently seeking new contributors to its educational sector. As the demand for nurses continues to increase, the need for nurse educators—professionals responsible for preparing the next generation of nurses—has become more pronounced than ever. 

Nonetheless, this high demand is met with a relatively low supply of qualified nurse educators, creating a significant gap in the industry. Becoming a nurse educator requires a certain level of education and certification, with an active registered nurse (RN) license as the essential requirement.

Becoming a nurse educator typically begins with a master’s degree in nursing (MSN), explicitly specializing in nurse education. This is currently the most popular educational pathway for aspiring nurse educators. 

However, doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs also exist, offering an alternative route for those who wish to pursue higher levels of education, such as the PhD in nursing from the University of Northern Colorado (UNC). Both options are available to nurses meeting the admission criteria, providing flexibility and choice in their educational journey. The U.S. News & World Report lists the nation’s top-ranked online nurse educator programs, several of which are featured below. 

Moreover, potential nurse educators are encouraged to obtain the National League for Nursing (NLN) certification. The most popular credential is the Certified Nurse Educator (CNE) credential. This certification signifies the holder’s expertise and commitment to the profession. It’s a testament to their competence in the academic nurse educator role. 

The path to becoming a nurse educator is paved with rigorous education and certification processes, but the rewards and impacts of this career are immeasurable. Read on for a comprehensive guide to becoming a nurse educator, including accredited programs, admission requirements, and career options.

What is a Nurse Education Program?

Earn the highest levels of nursing education with a nurse education degree. This graduate or doctoral program, or post-master’s certificate program, is designed for registered nurses (RNs) or existing advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and nurse practitioners looking to advance their knowledge and career prospects.

Types of Nurse Education Programs

To be eligible for admission, nurse educator candidates must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing for MSN programs or a master of science in nursing for DNP and other doctoral programs. Some institutions offer PhDs or a doctorate of nursing education (DNE) for further specialization.

MSN Programs

A master of science in nursing (MSN) degree is where most RNs embark on becoming nurse educators. These programs typically take two to three years to complete and provide specialized tracks in nurse education. In addition to gaining essential knowledge in curriculum development, instructional design, and program evaluation, graduates will also have the chance to become board-certified through a national certification exam. Depending on the program, applicants can gain admission to these programs with an ADN or BSN degree. 

DNP Programs

A doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) program specializing in nursing education perfectly fits nurse educators seeking advanced practice roles in teaching nursing students. Although DNP programs are less common than MSN programs with specializations, there are still doctoral programs that enable nurse educators to work at the top levels of nursing education in teaching and administration. With flexible program options such as MSN-to-DNP, BSN-to-DNP, or RN-to-DNP, applicants can complete their DNP in as little as two or up to six years.

Post-Master’s Certificate Programs

A nurse educator post-master’s certificate program is a graduate-level course of study that can be pursued after obtaining an MSN or DNP degree. These programs focus on pediatric nursing and provide clinical training in nursing pedagogical settings. Typically lasting one to two years, they prepare students for a career as a nurse educator. Upon completion, graduates can take national board examinations to obtain a professional certification in nursing education.

Nurse Education Program & School Accreditation

Programmatic and institutional accreditation are two distinct and necessary types of accreditation.

Programmatic accreditation evaluates the quality of an educational program within a college or university to ensure it meets high standards. For example, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) reviews nursing programs at the baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral levels. At the same time, the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) oversees associate’s, bachelor’s, and doctoral degrees. To be accepted into a CCNE-accredited MSN, DNP, or post-master’s nurse educator certificate program, nurses must have completed an undergraduate nursing degree accredited by CCNE or ACEN.

On the other hand, institutional accreditation assesses the entire institution. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a US Department of Education division, approves seven regional institutional accrediting bodies.
Before enrolling, it is crucial to check a program’s state authorization or NC-SARA (National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements) status, primarily because many states regulate online education. In addition, applicants should confirm that the program they are interested in accepts students from their home state and ensure that its curriculum aligns with the licensing requirements in the areas where they plan to pursue nurse educator professional licensure. This information can typically be found on school websites or by contacting the schools directly.

Typical Admissions Requirements for Nurse Education Degrees

To become a pediatric nurse practitioner, one must complete a two- to three-year graduate or doctoral program and pass a national certification exam. The requirements for admission into these programs vary, but here is a list of commonly required prerequisite courses and common application materials.

Prerequisite Courses: 

  • Biostatistics 
  • Human anatomy and physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Nutrition
  • Statistics

Most programs require students to pass prerequisite courses with a letter grade of “C” or higher. 

Application Requirements: 

  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 or above
  • Completion of one to two years of clinical nursing practice
  • Graduation from an accredited nursing school with a BSN degree accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the American Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
  • One year of professional experience as a registered nurse
  • Possession of an active RN license
  • Provision of official academic transcripts
  • Provision of professional letters of recommendation
  • Submission of a personal statement
  • Submission of application along with the required fee
  • Submission of TOEFL or IELTS scores (applicable for international applicants from non-English speaking countries)

Supervised Hour Requirements for Nurse Education Degrees

The number of clinical hours required for master’s of science in nursing (MSN) programs can vary depending on the specific program and the university. The American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN) requires a minimum of 500 hours as of October 2023. 

However, it is common for programs to require more than the 500-hour minimum by the AACN. For example, the University of South Florida requires MSN students to have 540 to 720 post-baccalaureate supervised clinical hours to graduate.
By comparison, the National League for Nursing (NLN) doesn’t require a minimum number of clinical practice hours. Still, it does require credential applicants to have a minimum of two years of employment in an academic nursing institution and nine credit hours of nursing education courses at the MSN or DNP level.

Featured Online & On-campus Nurse Educator Degrees

MSN Programs in Nurse Education

Arizona State University (Online)

The online master of science in nursing with a concentration in nursing education program offered by Arizona State University Online is an innovative and comprehensive program designed to prepare students for the role of certified nurse educators. The program emphasizes scholarship, creativity, and innovation in teaching, offering courses in curriculum development, instructional design, and program evaluation. This prepares graduates for various nursing careers, such as charge nurse, chief nursing officer, clinical professor, director of nursing, faculty member, lead nurse, nurse educator, nurse manager, and nurse supervisor. Also, it offers the opportunity to work with either a hospital educator or an academic educator, providing real-world experience. 

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, including holding a bachelor’s degree in nursing from a regionally accredited institution and meeting GPA requirements. Graduates are eligible to take the Certified Nurse Educator certification examination, and the program can also be a stepping stone to doctoral-level study. ASU Online’s commitment to providing high-quality, innovative online education makes this program an excellent choice for aspiring nurse educators.

  • Location: Phoenix, AZ
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $703 per credit 

Chamberlain University (Online)

Chamberlain University offers an extensive range of nursing programs, including a master of science in nursing (MSN) with specializations in adult gerontology nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. This program provides an enriching and flexible education experience for registered nurses (RNs) seeking to advance their careers, with direct options for RNs to pursue an MSN degree. The university’s commitment to Chamberlain Care and diversity and inclusion is evident in its history and vision. The program is offered at various campus locations across the United States, making it accessible to many students. 

Additionally, Chamberlain University provides a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree, a bachelor of science in nursing online degree, and an RN to BSN Option. They also offer a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. The university provides various aid options to support students financially, including scholarships, grants, work-study opportunities, and loans. The program is CCNE-accredited and ensures transparency by providing student consumer information. 

  • Location: Addison, IL
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $675 per credit 

Duke University – School of Nursing (On-campus)

Duke University School of Nursing offers an advanced master of science in nursing (MSN) program specializing in nursing education. This comprehensive two-year program is geared towards preparing students for nursing faculty, clinical instructors, and staff development positions. The curriculum provides the foundation to educate nursing and healthcare professionals, strongly emphasizing creating an inclusive and equitable learning environment. The program leverages technology to bridge educational gaps, respecting and valuing each learner’s unique insights and needs.

Duke University School of Nursing, consistently ranked as one of the top nursing schools, is known for its innovative nurse-led models of care. The faculty members are leaders in their field with real-world clinical experience, and the university offers specialized services dedicated to the success of its students. The program strongly emphasizes health equity, aiming to address health inequities and improve patient outcomes.

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
  • Tuition: $14,525 per semester 

Oregon Health & Science University – School of Nursing (Online)

The School of Nursing at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) offers an online master’s degree in nursing education. This program, available across Ashland, Klamath Falls, La Grande, Monmouth, and Portland campuses, is designed to prepare nurses for educational roles in various settings. It is committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. The program is accredited and has specific admissions requirements, including information sessions for prospective students.

Students in this program can access resources like professional development, learning and writing support, and student organizations. Clinical sites and practicum experiences are available to provide hands-on learning. OHSU provides tuition, scholarship information, and campus services, including CPR compliance requirements. The program ensures transparency by offering resources, FAQs, and contact information. The commitment to anti-racism, history of excellence, and dedication to student success make this program a standout choice for aspiring nursing educators.

  • Location: Multiple campuses across Oregon
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $673 per credit (residents); $874 per credit (non-residents)

University of North Carolina Wilmington (Online)

The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) offers an online master of science in nursing (MSN) nurse educator program that prepares students for leadership roles in academia, staff development, and the nursing community. This comprehensive, 100 percent online program is designed to equip nurses with the skills needed to effectively teach didactic, clinical, and distance nursing education courses. The curriculum includes advanced courses on pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, research, evidence-based practices for nursing education, and teaching and learning theories.

The program consists of 11 core courses and one nursing elective, totaling 36 credit hours, and can be completed in as few as 12 months. It also includes a nursing education practicum, which involves designing, implementing, and evaluating instructional modules under the guidance of a nurse faculty mentor. Students must complete at least 168 practice hours within their practicum courses.

  • Location: Wilmington, NC
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $262.17 per credit (residents); $1,030.45 per credit (non-residents)

DNP Programs in Nurse Education

Arkansas State University (Online)

The program also provides various graduate certificates related to healthcare, such as nurse administrator, nurse educator, adult gerontology acute care NP, family nurse practitioner, and others. The program lays a strong emphasis on preparing nurses for leadership roles in both educational and healthcare settings. Upon completion of the program, graduates will be well-prepared to work as nurse educators in academic settings or healthcare organizations, contributing to the advancement of healthcare through education. 

Arkansas State University offers an online doctor of nursing practice in education program. This comprehensive program is designed for healthcare professionals aspiring to elevate their careers in nursing education. The curriculum covers many areas, including curriculum development, teaching strategies, and assessment methods.

  • Location: Jonesboro, AR
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) 
  • Tuition: $456 per credit 

Regis College (Online)

Regis College offers an online master of science in nursing (MSN) to doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. The program is flexible, with three start times per year, and can be completed online within 24-36 months. It offers eight specialization options: pediatric, psychiatric mental health, women’s health, family, adult gerontology – primary care, and adult gerontology – acute care nurse practitioner, nurse leadership, and nurse education.

This program prepares students for leadership roles in the ever-evolving global healthcare field and qualifies them for certification exams in their chosen specialty. Admission requirements include an MSN degree from a regionally accredited institution, a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0, and other specific application documents. The program also offers various ways to save on tuition, including a Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP) for qualified students, with the potential for loan cancellation.

  • Location: Weston, MA
  • Duration: 24 to 36 months
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) 
  • Tuition: $1,425 per credit 

Ohio State University (Online)

The Ohio State University College of Nursing offers a doctor of nursing education (DNE) program accredited and widely recognized. The program shows a solid commitment to diversity and offers various academic pathways, including specializations in numerous areas of nursing education. It also provides students with continuing education and research opportunities, focusing on healthy aging, self-management, complex care, vulnerable populations, women, children, and youth.

Students are offered resources to get started, financial aid options, and clinical placements. Furthermore, health and wellness resources, student leadership awards, and other involvement opportunities are provided to encourage active participation in the college community. In addition, the program offers resources like Beacon and career services, counseling services, workshop requests, and several graduate and undergraduate certificate programs.

  • Location: Columbus, OH
  • Duration: 2.5 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $47,946.70 total (residents); $48,946.70 per credit (non-residents)

Vanderbilt University – School of Nursing (Online)

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing offers a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program focusing on nursing education. The program is ranked #13 in the 2024 U.S. News & World Report rankings, making it a prestigious and renowned choice for nursing professionals. It provides a comprehensive curriculum that includes courses such as curriculum strategies for health professions education, educational evaluation for learning in the health professions, online methodologies for nursing education, innovations for teaching in clinical and simulated settings, and mentored teaching and role synthesis.

The National League for Nursing (NLN) Nurse Educator Competencies guides the course content, ensuring students are well-equipped with the latest knowledge and skills. Students have multiple engagement options in nursing education and can even choose to enroll in a fourth course to earn a Post-Master’s Certificate in Nursing Education. The program also offers eligibility for the NLN Nurse Educator certification examination and financial aid through the Nurse Faculty Loan Program (NFLP).

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Duration: 2.5 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $1,939 per credit 

University of North Georgia – College of Nursing (Hybrid)

The University of North Georgia (UNG) offers an online doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program for working nurses. The program’s flexible format consists of asynchronous online classes with optional synchronous sessions in some courses. It is a 38-credit-hour program that can be completed in five semesters full-time or eight semesters part-time, with each core DNP course meeting one day per month.

The program requires applicants to have at least two years of RN experience and current employment in a healthcare-related field. Admission requirements include a Master of Science in Nursing from a regionally accredited institution, a minimum GPA of 3.25 on all graduate-level coursework, and a current, unencumbered RN license. Applicants must also submit supplemental documents such as a curriculum vitae or resume, APRN or nursing specialty certification, personal statement, and letters of recommendation.

  • Location: Dahlonega, GA
  • Duration: Five to eight semesters
  • Accreditation: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) 
  • Tuition: $412 per credit 

Post-Master’s Certificate Programs in Nurse Education

Johns Hopkins University – School of Nursing (Online)

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing offers an online post-master’s nursing education certificate program. Ranked #1 for its doctor of nursing practice program and #2 for its nursing master’s program, the university provides a comprehensive certificate curriculum over three semesters, including courses on teaching strategies, online teaching and learning, evaluation, and curriculum theory and design. The program prepares students for instructional or administrative positions in nursing education and allows them to sit for the NLN Certified Nurse Educator examination.

Two eligibility options are available: licensure as a registered nurse with a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing education and relevant work experience. Students enrolled in a master’s specialty track or doctoral degree program can add the post-master’s nurse educator certificate by submitting a written request. The program also offers a teaching practicum, optional but can be taken as the final course in the sequence and designed in various settings. 

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $22,572 total

University of Nevada, Las Vegas (Online)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Nursing offers an advanced graduate certificate in nursing education (post-master’s) program. This online program is designed for students with a master’s degree in nursing and provides courses leading to a nurse educator post-master’s certificate. The program uses various teaching strategies to engage students actively and includes mandatory on-campus sessions. The curriculum meets the Essentials of Master’s Education in Nursing as identified by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

The program aims to prepare graduates for faculty positions within nursing programs or nurse educator positions in clinical settings. It focuses on enhancing mastery of teaching, learning, evaluation strategies, curriculum design, and educational technologies. In addition, it aims to improve clinical expertise in a selected specialty area through directed study and mentorship with experienced faculty. The program allows students to supervise primary nursing students in clinical practice areas and work with nurse educators in clinical settings to prepare, deliver, and evaluate educational programs for nurses.

  • Location: Las Vegas, NV
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $7,094 per year (residents); $24,050 per credit (non-residents)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Online)

The University of North Carolina (UNC) offers a nine-credit-hour graduate certificate in nursing education program. This certificate program is designed to prepare nurses for educational roles in various settings, focusing on the essential role of technology in curriculum development and evaluation. The program is open to anyone who can apply and features online courses with a blend of asynchronous and synchronous classes, allowing for flexibility and convenience.

Special preparation is necessary for those planning to teach nursing in North Carolina, which this program provides. It requires completing a minimum of nine credit hours of coursework, which can be completed within one calendar year. Notably, up to 40 percent of the credit hours earned in the certificate program may count toward the student’s degree program. The application process involves logging into NurSys and following the on-screen instructions. Upon successful completion, the program will be indicated on the student’s transcript, signifying their preparedness for educational roles in the field of nursing.

  • Location: Chapel Hill, NC
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $11,101 per year (residents); $19,964 per year (non-residents)

University of Utah (On-campus)

The University of Utah’s College of Nursing offers a graduate certificate in nursing education. This program will equip bachelor-prepared nurses with the skills and knowledge necessary to teach nursing students in various settings, including community, hospital, clinical, and classroom environments. 

The curriculum includes courses such as education environments and educator roles, curriculum development and evaluation, learners and learner-centered teaching, assessment and feedback in education, teaching strategies and modalities, and two practicum courses focused on curriculum, evaluation, teaching and assessment. The courses do not need to be taken in any particular order, but one didactic course must be completed before a practicum. The total program hours amount to 15. For nurses who already hold a graduate degree, this certificate program can serve as an ideal pathway to becoming a nurse educator

  • Location: Salt Lake City, UT
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $971.21 per credit (residents); $1,057.91 per credit (non-residents)

Western Governors University (Online)

Western Governors University (WGU) offers a comprehensive post-master’s certificate in nursing education program designed to be completed on a nurse’s schedule. This program aims to prepare graduates for career paths such as nurse educators, nursing faculty, program directors, and academic clinical nurse educators. The curriculum consists of eight courses that can be completed in 12 months, covering topics such as the roles of nurse educators, curriculum design and development, assessment and evaluation strategies, and emerging trends and challenges in nursing education.

One must possess an MSN and an active, unencumbered RN license to apply. WGU provides financial aid and scholarships to help make this an affordable nursing education certificate. Graduates of the program have seen an increase in income post-graduation and hold positions with top employers such as Healthcare Corp. of America, Kaiser-Permanente, Purdue University, University of Utah, and Hospice Care of California.

  • Location: Multiple campuses across the United States
  • Duration: 1-4 years
  • Accreditation: Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) 
  • Tuition: $5,000 to $45,000 total 

Jobs for Nurse Education Graduates

A variety of roles await those with a nursing education degree. Here are three of the highest-paid positions available to nurse educators, according to ZipRecruiter in October 2023.

Nurse Educator

A nurse educator is a registered nurse with advanced education and clinical training in a healthcare specialty. They work in classrooms and clinical settings to teach nursing students and current nurses continuing education. Nurse educators design, implement, evaluate, and revise educational programs for nurses. These include formal academic programs that lead to a degree or certificate or more informal continuing education programs designed to meet individual learning needs.

Their role goes beyond just teaching — they serve as role models and provide mentorship for nursing students, guiding them in developing the skills necessary to succeed in the nursing profession. They also conduct research, contribute to the scientific literature, and help advance the nursing profession. Nurse educators can work in various settings, such as technical schools, nursing schools, medical schools, hospitals, and community agencies. Their job is crucial because they are responsible for preparing and mentoring current and future generations of nurses.

Nursing Education Specialist

A nursing education specialist is a specialized role in nursing education. While both nurse educators and nursing education specialists are involved in teaching and mentoring nurses, their roles and responsibilities can differ. 

A nursing education specialist is often involved in planning and conducting surveys to evaluate nursing schools, preparing reports and recommendations, and applying educational theories and principles related to curriculum development, student teaching, and evaluation. They might also design and implement educational programs for healthcare providers in private clinical settings rather than academic settings. 

Nursing Professor

A nursing professor is a professional educator within a college or university setting who teaches courses in the field of nursing. They are typically highly experienced nursing professionals who have chosen to dedicate their careers to education, often possessing advanced degrees such as a master’s or doctorate in nursing. Nursing professors have many responsibilities, including teaching, curriculum development, research, mentoring, and professional development. 

While nursing professors and nurse educators are involved in teaching and educating nurses, their roles, responsibilities, and settings can differ significantly. While both roles involve teaching and mentoring, a nursing professor’s work focuses more on academia and research. In contrast, a nurse educator focuses on practical nursing skills and continuing education. However, these roles can overlap and vary widely depending on the specific job and institution.

Rachel Drummond, MEd

Rachel Drummond, MEd


At, Rachel Drummond has applied her extensive experience in education and mindfulness to elucidate the importance of self-care for nursing students since 2022. Through her writings, she underscores the role of mental and physical well-being in fostering resilient and compassionate healthcare professionals.

Rachel is a writer, educator, and coach from Oregon. She has a master’s degree in education (MEd) and has over 15 years of experience teaching English, public speaking, and mindfulness to international audiences in the United States, Japan, and Spain. She writes about the mind-body benefits of contemplative movement practices like yoga on her blog, inviting people to prioritize their unique version of well-being and empowering everyone to live healthier and more balanced lives.